Chuck vs The Gobbler (4.12)

We’re almost to the end of the original Season Four front order.  Things are building to what was once a possible series finale.  So same old, same old…

After the jump we’ll look at Gobbler, with plenty of Volkoff, Mary, and a little Charah.

When it first ran, Gobbler was my least favorite episode of Season Four.  As often happens on these re-watches, the big picture makes some of the bothersome issues a little less bothersome, and I find the episode easier to enjoy for its own merits.  Although a few problems remain.  I don’t believe this will ever be a favorite episode of mine, but I did find plenty to enjoy this time.

So let’s start with the good.  Dark Sarah making her grand entrance for Volkoff is just awesome.  Is there any other way to put that?!  Casually destroying a group of armed thugs just to make a point…   Volkoff is right; she is so much fun!  Volkoff himself is at his best in much of this episode; from painting puppies, to uh, not dealing with disappointment well, to plotting how he’s going to break Sarah.  This is a brilliant, demented performance.

I also really enjoy the jail break mission.  It is bookended with a couple of nice Charah moments, and has Chuck taking down a monster of a thug.  A bit of meta-humor too, Matthew Willig has now played two different villains on the show named Uri (Tango) and Yuri.  Should have been Darryl and Darryl…   But Chuck himself gets a pretty impressive destruction of the hoodlum; his stay as prison top dog doesn’t last long though until he’s usurped by Sarah (!).  Casey and Morgan throwing a distracting birthday celebration fills out the mission.  And I think that’s just fun all around.

The final action sequence is well done.  Obviously a bit dark, but I like this as a bit of clever and evil gamesmanship from the master criminal.  I also like how clearly we see Sarah dealing with the mission, she will do what she must while clinging to her own humanity.

But this leads directly to what I still have some problems with.  Let’s back  up a step.  For starters, I just don’t like the forced separation as a story device.  No, its not a huge thing or a game breaker in any sense.  But its not what I want for these characters or this show, so its sort of a wrong foot start that the writers have to come back from.  The bizarre tonal communication device might have seemed funny in the writer’s room, but was too forced, too dumb for me.  Again, not a big thing, just a dud moment.  Chuck’s insistence that his Sarah will never change is getting to be a little more irksome.  This is likely about setting up the “shocking” moment where Chuck sees Sarah punch Casey through a high rise window.  Unfortunately, I think its one of those things that undermines the main character by making him look very stupid.  It might have worked better if Morgan had offered it as brain dead words of comfort.  But Chuck of all people should know better than to say such a thing.  Sarah has done many hard and ugly things, and she has changed as much as any character on the show.  But now she’s like a recovering alcoholic who just got a job as bartender; and Chuck deciding to act like she is impervious to any threats related to immersion in a mission environment is painfully clueless.  Rather, he should have been very concerned for her safety and her soul.  Obviously, this bothered me quite a lot!

But the biggest hang up I have with this episode has to do with the Mary/Sarah relationship.  Specifically that Sarah is made to look so naive about undercover work that she needs coaching from Mary on the matter.  The problem I have with this is that Mary seems a spectacularly bad example.  She hasn’t coped, she’s sold out.  I needed to see Sarah coming in to force the issue of resolving Mary’s mission.  This could have worked a few ways.  I’ve mentioned a few times that I like the idea that Mary actively has switched sides, and I could see Sarah having to win her over by reminding her of what she’s lost and what used to be important to her.  Both professional and personal things.  A despondent Mary could work too, and Sarah provides encouragement and motivation.  But Mary as senior partner does not work for me.  Almost from the start of the series we have too many reasons to not really like Mary much; and in this case we are supposed to sympathize with her too quickly.  Her redemption feels unearned, or worse, at Sarah’s expense, and it doesn’t work well for me.  The problem may have to do with how little screen time they are actually willing to devote to Mary, and it almost feels like a shortcut to show her to us through instructing Sarah.

And its easy to forget there was a “B” plot here.  This was one of the simpler/briefer ones I think, that’s probably fitting with so much meat in the “A” plot.  But short as it was, I think the “Grunka” story was very funny.  Possibly one of the funnier “B” plots of the season.  Oh I checked, “Grunka” really is kitchenware sold at Ikea.

All that said, this is not a terrible episode.  We have observed many times that Chuck is a multi-genre sort of show, and sometimes the complicated interplay of elements works better than others.  Gobbler may fall short of many other episodes, but it still provides plenty of excellent moments and an enjoyable 43 minutes.  And the resolution of the arc next week will be even better!

~ Dave 
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Explaining Everything To The Geeks

Like usual, I’m tempted to write “in response” to Dave’s post. I do that a lot, especially when we’re in agreement. But this time it’s not going to sound that way. The difference is that I’m not going to write as logically as Dave. I’m going to write emotionally.

The Gobbler

The Gobbler

From the right side of my brain, then, Chuck vs. The Gobbler is not a middling episode. It is a powerhouse, and I won’t mince words here, it’s one of the best. As is often the case, it began at the end of Balcony with Sarah (and some of us fans) barely able to control the bitter sadness of both Chuck’s interrupted proposal and her tearful departure in chains. Like I tried to point out last week, it wasn’t that Sarah was a prisoner. It was worse. Sarah was going into the same undercover-hell that took Mary twenty years earlier.

Let me rephrase that. It took Mary from Chuck twenty years earlier and now it was taking Sarah. No matter who you identify with, it’s a very bitter thought.

Oh, wait! That’s not the mood when the episode starts at all!


Chuck’s spirits are good. Sarah will be back soon and at least for now, they can communicate through those weird beeps and tones in a language devised for them by the CIA.

[Pardon me a moment while I fantasize that the CIA got that bit of technology and encryption know-how from an agent known as Orion. He perfected it several years earlier; that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.]

Chuck’s pretty upbeat because he knows that Sarah won’t change. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Be naive, Chuck. Well, actually, Volkoff’s not sure himself that she will. In fact, following the Reagan dictum (“Trust, but verify.” for you youngsters), Volkoff doesn’t believe her at all. So how can Sarah convince him she’s telling the truth? By telling the truth, of course.

Sarah: Years ago, I told Chuck that I didn’t want him to be a spy. I tried to get him to run away with me.
Volkoff: But despite all your pleadings, he said no.
Sarah: He did.
Volkoff: I knew it.
Sarah: But I still loved him. We got trapped in a CIA-run world with no way out. No exit. Unless…
Volkoff: There’s always an unless.
Sarah: …unless I took matters into my own hands. I turned on the CIA because I wanna cash out and build a life.
It may sound foolish, but I’m trying to buy a future with the man that I love.

The truth in her words is undeniable, and so is the cold, emotionless darkness from which they come. Several commenters have noted over the years that it was rather dumb (and by extension, not intelligent writing) that Frost did not take a single one of her myriad opportunities to off Volkoff. Perhaps. I noticed that Sarah makes the same decision just a little later in her “interview” with the weapons dealer.

Fair Questions.

Fair Questions.

Volkoff: Miss Walker, even if you’ve told me the truth about your motives, why would I trust you?
Sarah: Fair question. The reason you’re going to trust me is because I’m not gonna kill you right here and right now.

The Romantic Poet

The Romantic Poet

Like it or not, Sarah’s all in. There’s very little deception here; Volkoff knows Sarah cannot be trusted and he also knows that Mary intended to betray him at first. But he’s also certain that he can turn her to his advantage, just like he did Frost. Despite what we’ve seen so far of the relationship between Frost and Volkoff, it’s not clear that he’s wrong. He gets great pleasure from bending people to his will, after all.

Don't mess with the t-shirt!

Don’t mess with the t-shirt!

Can Sarah be broken like that? I wouldn’t think so. There’s plenty in Gobbler that’s lite (as in low calorie) and humorous in nature. I especially love Mekenna as Alex here. and her interactions with Morgan. Matthew Willig is imposing no matter how many Y/Uri’s he plays. Dalton proves himself to be one of the best. There’s certainly a little humor in Chuck’s prison number (it’s Zak’s birthday).

Prisoner #092980

Prisoner #092980

But the focus of this episode and therefore it’s power, is squarely on that question. Can Sarah be broken? And if Sarah can’t be broken, can she be bent?

Mary: [whispers] We should go. I need you to realize that going undercover in a place like this can require certain difficult choices.
Sarah: I’m well aware.
Mary: You may find yourself becoming someone you no longer recognize.

Message Declined

Message Declined

Can she do this and remain someone that Chuck can love? Did Frost? That is the thing troubling Sarah in the van as she leaves Chuck by the prison. That’s the heartache when Sarah asks the more experienced agent how she’s coped with it for so long.

Mary: Distance.

That is the problem for Chuck and for the viewers when Sarah declines his phone call.

Leave your home
Change your name
Live alone
Eat your cake
 
I’ll explain everything to the geeks

Alone

Alone

Sarah is very alone when she declines that call. She has to be. Agent Sarah Walker acted emotionless in front of Volkoff but she’s no longer the cold-school assassin she once was.

Sarah has Chuck now and friends who care about her and an extended family of people she didn’t know just four years earlier, which makes it all the more difficult to do her job. Doing what Mary did, just leaving without a word for an indeterminable amount of time, is something that they will wonder about and think about for – in Chuck’s case – decades. You can logically refute every reason that might be given for why Sarah must be alone, but that’s almost meaningless. This time it’s the emotional reasons that count.

– joe
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Bookends and Parallels and Contrasts

Well, since Joe took the emotional route, I’ll follow an analytical path. I’m with Joe on really liking this episode, but more from the logical than emotional standpoint … oh and all the wonderful moments Dave pointed out. Some great stuff.

Gobbler was one of those episodes that I had to watch twice to figure out that I liked it, and the more I’ve watched it and thought about it, the more I like it. I like what I see behind and around the story, especially how it fits into broader themes and stories. I also like what I see inside the story, with its great scenes and moments. Of course, hindsight helps. Though aired separately, Gobbler and Push Mix are pretty much two halves of one episode. So I’ll write with the foreknowledge of hindsight — one of the advantages of rewatches. 🙂

Bookends — Lots and Lots of Bookends: It came up a couple of weeks ago that CF likes bookends. Bookends define context and serve to identify themes and story lines … and Gobbler is full of them. So, I’d like to organize my thoughts in the context of the bookends.

Gobbler’s story spans two episodes, concludes an arc, and bookends four stories: Mary’s mission, Stephen’s mission, the current spy story (finding mom) and the current normal story (the proposal). Obviously some of these are better left for next week’s discussion.

The setup for Gobbler was Balcony Leftovers. Leftovers was the bookend to Aisle of Terror, and the setup for Aisle of Terror was Anniversary. (All these nested stories … it’s kind of like computer programming, Joe.)

The first thing we see MamaB do is read her son a bedtime story. The next thing we see her do is kill someone to protect that same little boy (well, not so little anymore, but try telling a mother that). Aha, another pair of bookends. What happened between those bookends to turn MamaB the story reader into MamaB the terminator? Of course, that is the S4 mystery to unravel and the back story of the current spy story.

In every subsequent meeting, Mary sticks to her story that everything she has ever done has been to protect her family (not take care of them, not run for mother of the year, or even love them properly … but to protect them). In Anniversary, her biggest nightmare is delivered to her front door step (via public transportation :)). Oh Chuck.

From there, things just keep going sideways …

In Aisle of Terror, she risks breaking cover to protect Chuck. She fakes his death, enlists Sarah in her mission to protect him, and makes sure that he can’t come after her again (PSP).

And more sideways …

In Leftovers, she ends up breaking her cover to save her son. By the end of Leftovers, the mission that went sideways more ways than a car hitting black ice at 90 MPH, Gobbler is set up:

The danger is clear and present. The safety of the Bartowskis teeters on a razor’s edge, with Volkoff holding Family Bartowski, Team Bartowski, and Mary Bartowski hostage. One false move on Mary’s part and her family dies. If TeamB gets too close to Volkoff, Mary dies. There’s an 800 pound psychotic gorilla in the courtyard, with a ticking bomb strapped to his chest. It’s not a question of if, but when, it will explode. Sarah more than anyone knows what this means, Your mom is the only thing keeping us safe, and she can’t come back until Volkoff is destroyed. He knows too much, and the ultimate implications.

The agents for the final mission have all the Intel they need to make mission impossible a possibility. Between two of our bookends (Aisle of Terror and Leftovers), Sarah puts Chuck’s mom under her spy’s microscope. At every opportunity she scrutinizes, analyzes, and evaluates. But hey, at least it’s not one sided. Mary has a microscope of her own, and Sarah is her latest specimen. Hypotheses are formed at the end of First Fight. By Leftovers, the evidence is conclusive, and the two women have formed a crucial bond. Mary takes Sarah under her maternal wing (mishapen as it is), and Sarah has a clear picture of Mary’s situation: her mission, her position, and her dilema. Sarah believes Mary’s story. More important, she knows she can trust Mary. Here’s where I diverge with Dave’s take. Sarah couldn’t have gone in to help bring down Volkoff and bring Mary home without knowing that Mary was still one of the good guys — one she could trust — and would finish the mission and come home if she could.

The Mission and the Parallels: Sarah’s mission to bring down Volkoff and bring Mary home (I’m not coming back without your mom) bookends Mary’s mission to bring down Volkoff and protect her family. I believe Mary when she said her mission was more complicated than it appeared, and I’m willing to accept her explanation that she was trapped. The Agent X reveal coupled with the Decker reveal bolster her story. (I know I’m in the minority.)

I buy that Sarah had to be the one to do this mission, not only from a story telling perspective, but also because no one else would be remotely believable for Volkoff to accept or suitably interesting for him to toy with. (You are such fun.)

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Sarah/Mary dynamic develop, from holding guns on each other to tentative trust to partners and family. Their meeting on the frigid, unsurveiled square meter in Volkoff’s compound establishes their relationship as both professional and familial. Sarah calls Mary Mrs. Bartowski, not her spy handle (Frost), not a partner’s name (Mary), but a family name, like a daughter-in-law might address her future mother-in-law. I’m here to help you take down Volkoff and get you the hell out of here. Perfect.

As for Mary, she accepts Sarah’s professional help and lays out the first step toward bringing down Volkoff and his network … but not without expressing more than partner-y concern for Sarah — Sarah the woman, not just Sarah the spy. Also perfect.

Another small quibble. Whereas Mary’s mission wasn’t a success, she has more knowledge of Volkoff and the situation than anyone. Sarah would be foolish to go in as Agent in Charge. I can see how the “advice” moments could rankle, but I liked how well they worked together.

The parallels are obvious between the two women and their missions — and between the two couples. The threat is also the same. Will Sarah lose herself to this mission like Mary did? Will Chuck and Sarah’s story end up a tragic repetition of Stephen and Mary’s story? Will Chuck and Sarah win, or will the spy world win? This is specifically the Gobbler/Push Mix story and generally the C/S story going forward.

(Now, I totally agree with Dave that Chuck should have been more concerned and less clueless.)

Tests: Sarah gets another “red test,” this time from a man one would actually expect to issue them. If there was another parallel niggling at the fringe of consciousness, here it is. Chuck? … S3? Then, Sarah watched Chuck descend into the spy world, fearing he would lose himself. Now Sarah is the one going back into that world, with all of us hoping she won’t lose the person she has become with Chuck. The red test plays out in parallel. Chuck witnesses Sarah do something horrific — unthinkable. And, worse, Volkoff tells him that she’s doing it all for him. Only it isn’t at all what he thinks, and Casey is the key to the truth.

As for the bump in the road, the last scene, it has never bothered me as much as it has Dave and some others. Sarah is in a lonely world of hurt. I may not agree with Mary’s advice, but I like that Mary tried to comfort Sarah (with the same gesture she comforted Ellie in First Fight).

So, why did TPTB go that route … have Sarah reject the call? Well, admittedly they like to string certain episodes together with threads of angst (like this arc). That factor aside, whether or not I agree with Sarah’s rejecting the call, I understand it a little. Wise or not, she tried to numb the ache and survive through distance, which seems in keeping with Sarah’s old self and with prevailing spy wisdom. It’s not what we wanted, but it’s part of the story TPTB wanted to tell. It concretizes the questions gathering around Chuck and Sarah’s fate, concerning the parallels between them and Chuck’s parents. This story lets Chuck and Sarah experience briefly what Stephen and Mary experienced over a lifetime: Sarah, the pain of isolation; and Chuck, the pain of loss … the real risks of trying to balance two worlds.

Which brings us to …

Contrasts: CHUCK does contrast really well. From dressing-for-the-date in the Pilot to mission prep in Tango to mission/date prep in First Date and on through the series to the end of Business Trip, CHUCK contrasts the spy world and the real/normal world. The spy world, always lurking below the surface, holds the real world hostage. Whenever the barrier is breached, the dangers of the spy world threaten Chuck’s normal life.

Nobody knows this better than Mary (and Stephen). Their failure to balance the two worlds cost Chuck and Ellie their parents and a normal childhood. Right now (and for the rest of the series) the spy world keeps threatening to rob Chuck and Sarah of the life they want to have together.

For contrast (for me anyway) the best montage is the end of Business Trip, and the best episode is Gobbler, whose contrast of worlds is brilliant. From beginning to end, the juxtaposition of scenes and the A and B plots contrasts the cold dark spy-world with the sunny real-world. As Chuck consumes his breakfast of cereal and orange juice, Sarah lifts her shot of vodka to toast her suicide mission. In the real world, people fall in love and pick out baby names. In the spy world, disappointing the boss gets you suspended dead, and world domination isn’t a board game.

Gobbler is a heavy episode, yet still Chuck-like. It weaves Chuck’s main dramatic theme – the delicate balance of opposing worlds – with comedy (funny! Ellie), action (Sarah and the Volkoff goons), family (Grunka/Clara), romance (the Castle rendezvous), and heart. The heart in Gobbler isn’t as overt and warm and fuzzy as Chuck’s usual fare. It’s in subtle friendship, like Casey playing board games to keep Chuck’s mind off of Sarah. It’s in the kinship and caring of two women working together to stop a madman. But most of all, it’s in the love: not the sweet rosy kind, but the determined gritty kind seen in Sarah’s sacrificial love to save her family and Chuck’s unyielding love to get them all back. In this story, against the odds, love will win the day. And that is very Chuck.

All of this, despite its heavier tone, makes Gobbler a big win for me.

~Thinkling

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About atcDave

I'm 53 years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I've been an air traffic controller for 30 years; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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110 Responses to Chuck vs The Gobbler (4.12)

  1. BillAtWork says:

    This is probably the one episode in S4 where they played it for genuine relationship angst. Is Sarah turning into Mary? I would have much preferred that C/S face problems together instead of separately. And I was disappointed that Mary became Sarah’s mentor. I would have preferred that they show the contrast between Mary and Sarah. Mary is really, really, really hard to like as a character. And I still don’t get what Beckman’s plan was that required Sarah to be led off in chains. She could have went to Volkoff and told him she was after a big payday anytime she wanted without that drama.

    But having said all that, there were some good moments. Sarah in the catsuit was fun. “I feel like I’m cheating on you, with you.”

    • atcDave says:

      Yeah I agree with all of that Bill. This remains my least favorite episode of S4, BUT, I ultimately like all of S4. In spite of the problems I have with Gobbler, I still have a good time watching.

    • joe says:

      I rather like the scene that shows Morgan cares more about Alex than about his previously unworn, original issue, Zemeckis-signed Back to the Future tee-shirt even when she’s eating pizza and drinking orange juice.

      Now *that’s* love.

      • atcDave says:

        I like that too Joe. Although the dripping pizza sauce all over is sort of a turn off…

      • Also great was Chuck’s reaction to the whole thing – he was more terrified than Morgan was! The show kind of lost track of Chuck’s nerdy side after Intersect 2.0 (and brought it back in S5). This was cute callback to that.

  2. uplink2 says:

    I’ll write more tomorrow but Joe I have to say I’m a bit surprised at you for neglecting what I consider one of the all time great Chuck music inclusions. This song made that scene for me whether I agree with the premise or not. Plus it also became one of my all time favorite pieces from Chuck.

    I

    • joe says:

      Oh, you can bet your sweet bippy that I love that song, Uplink. I could have written a whole ‘nother section based on it, I think.

      But the post was already getting kinda long… 😉

      • uplink2 says:

        I would have loved to have read it as I think there is so much about the tone, the feel, the story behind that song that fits what I think there were trying to convey in that moment. I liked Gobbler the first time I watched it and much of it was caused by the fact that I thought there were real choices, consequences and real stakes in this episode that in many ways had been missing in much of the lighter earlier arc of this season. I know it was relationship angst but it was real relationship angst caused by circumstances and character behavior I could understand. Now would I liked them to show more contrast between Sarah and Mary? Absolutely but here is a case where for me at least the story they were telling made sense. It wasn’t the phoney contrived angst of season 3 where I have to stand on my head, click my heels together 3 times, and plow headlong through 9 miles of crap to find the very thin story underneath. Here the story is there for us to easily see and understand. I may have liked a different tactic but the story they were telling here works for me. Part of the reason it works is the use of this song. It really ties it all up perfectly and I was really looking forward to what I still consider the best of the supposed finales coming next week.

      • atcDave says:

        I do agree the sort of angst here is legitimate, especially in context. Its a significant story with real consequences. My frustrations have more to do with execution, especially later in the episode. But this is no where near the frustration of the previous season, and in the end this was a very good story to tell.

      • BillAtWork says:

        It was legitimate angst. But also it felt a little contrived. Because the characters should have been past this point.

        They made such a big deal in Anniversary about ‘new rule. no secrets, no lies.’ And over this very topic, Chuck going on his own to search for him mom. But seemingly that rule only applied to Chuck. Sarah seems to regularly ignore it.

        And I still don’t understand what Beckman’s plan was that required all of the drama in Balcony.

      • thinkling says:

        Obviously, TPTB’s love of drama (and angst) can’t be excluded from the equation. However, to me the only part of the end of Balcony that feels like truly gratuitous angst is springing the arrest 3 words short of a proper proposal. The rest I can accept. It’s not unreasonable to think that Beckman was covering all the bases to make Sarah’s treason as convincing as possible.

        We know that Volkoff has people inside the CIA. Mary told us that twice. He has a huge network of anonymous bad guys and informants all over the world. An actual arrest with all the trappings lends much needed credibility for a very dangerous undercover mission that so many parties of mixed loyalties are watching closely.

        As for no secrets no lies, I can put this one in a gray area (although both Chuck and Sarah still like to go solo to “protect” each other). Chuck is nervous at the restaurant because of the proposal. Then he seems to be seeing Volkoff behind every bad guy. Then he just seems down (because of the proposal again). Sarah interprets all of that (and probably other cumulative signs) as extreme worry for his family and friends, because of Volkoff. Now, Sarah can be a bit impulsive. So, in the moment she voices her concern to Beckman in the form of an offer to help bring down Volkoff and get Chuck’s mother home. I will give her the benefit of the doubt for a couple of reasons:

        1. Her offer was impulsive, not in content but in timing. It wasn’t a conversation she had planned for that moment, but it came out because of her building concern for Chuck and the inevitability of some kind of action to end the danger to her family.
        2. The focus of the mission and the proposal kept her from mentioning it to Chuck. She would have time to tell him later, right?
        3. Wrong. Beckman’s setup took her by complete surprise before she had a chance to talk to Chuck about it.
        4. Once it was in play, she couldn’t back out. It was then or never.

      • BillAtWork says:

        Of course you can justify almost any actions in the immediate context of the moment. That’s not my point. At this point, I would have preferred a story of them working together. The angst, no matter how believable or well done, was so totally over used. And as a viewer, I became fatiqued by it.

        They could have told a much more powerful, romantic story.

      • uplink2 says:

        I agree with that Think. Sarah’s surprise at the arrest was legitimate and it is understandable that it had to happen that way as Sarah’s reaction was crucial to selling that ploy. I think part of my point is that in that scene at the end of Gobbler the story they are telling is totally clear and believable to me. Execution aside for a minute, I get what they were trying to tell me. Plus I never really worried about the relationship because Phase 3 had shown me the lengths that Sarah would go to to complete her mission for Chuck and well “she IS Sarah and she can do anything”. In season 3 I had no idea who that zombie version of Sarah was on screen and nothing they had her do made sense on any level. Plus they had made me dislike her and not really care about any aspect to the story they were telling. That was pure, pointless, contrived manipulation and I don’t get that feeling at all here. Sure its a bit contrived and manipulative but it is an honest and real character driven story behind it. I know this Sarah, in season 3 she was a damaged, lesser, unlikable version of who I thought she had been. In S3 I just wanted the story over with. Here I wanted to be on that ride till the end.

        But I think a big point I’m trying to make here is how the use of music and this particular song is a perfect example of it, can really sell the emotion of a scene. One of the show’s greatest strengths is the use of music to sell the emotion. From A Comet Appears and all the way through the series and especially in this moment, the music chosen can really make a scene work on a much higher level. Now they weren’t perfect, I still am totally confused what the choice of No One’s Gonna Love You in Nemesis was trying to convey and have gone back and forth multiple times on how to interpret it. Plus I’m also one of those that doesn’t get anything positive out of the choice of Rivers and Roads to end the series on. But more times than naught they hit the mark perfectly. The highlighting of that aspect of the show is one of the things I enjoy most about Joe’s contribution to this site.

        Unlike Dave I guess this episode isn’t necessarily a favorite of mine but it isn’t at the bottom of S4 by any means. That honor is reserved for Muuurder. It fits their style for penultimate episodes of creating a dramatic moment leading into the finale or in the case of Colonel producing an episode that changes the show forever. Too bad TPTB didn’t learn that lesson as clearly as their fans did or we wouldn’t have had the tearing apart of the fanbase that followed. But Gobbler I think works to set up a fantastic climactic sort of finale. It was a clear believable story that wasn’t mired in pointless distractions of contrived teen WTWT angst with bitterly hated characters, and not in a good way, played by lousy actors. We loved Volkoff and Dalton and when you combine that with a believable story, even if you don’t absolutely like the direction, you create a very enjoyable viewing experience.

      • thinkling says:

        Of course they could have told the story differently … for better or worse, but I was offering a different take on the story they told.

        Your original comment sounded like you couldn’t find any justification for Sarah’s actions, apart from deliberately ignoring their pact. I don’t see it that way.

        Same thing goes for your other point about the way Beckman began the mission. When you say you still don’t understand something, it sounds as though you’d like someone to offer a reasonable explanation.

        So I offered my explanations, which you basically dismissed by saying Of course you can justify almost any actions in the immediate context of the moment.

      • thinkling says:

        Yeah, Uplink, I think we’re on the same page here. Including Muuurder … my least favorite from S4. I agree about the music, too, even though I don’t notice it as often as some people. The music here is excellent. Didn’t much care for Rivers and Roads, either.

      • atcDave says:

        Bill I agree as far as saying I wish they’d made some slightly different entertainment choices. I am also tired of the big shocking moment at the end of the episode, and much prefer the warm, happy place as a send off for the week. If I were calling the shots, both Balcony and Gobbler would have ended on slightly different notes. Most significantly, I would have found a way to tell the story with a less extreme separation (although I am pleased it was less traumatic than I feared at the end of Balcony, they still had a mission together).
        But that said, I don’t have major problems with the angst in this particular case. I thought it was honest both to the situation and characters. And that’s why I never get too discouraged with this season or arc. Unlike the previous season, they never get into a situation I actively dislike; and all the angst is resolved in a fitting and timely way. Most important to me, I never end up disliking the characters or show. At its very “worst”, Gobbler merely leaves me with a couple scenes I might have done differently.

      • BillAtWork says:

        Dave, here is my main, #1 criticism of the show. I’ll try and keep it mild, lol.

        All of those big moments that end episodes — they can be ignored. Both good and bad, they never happened, are never paid off or referenced again.

        “It is real.”

        “I did it for you… because I love you.”

        Sarah throwing her gun on the bed.

        “Does Chuck know about the baby?”

        Sarah being led off in chains.

        None of those potentially game changing moments had any long term story value. And that makes them manipulative. Drama for drama’s sake.

      • atcDave says:

        Wow, so much dislike for Murrrder. An episode I really have nothing against. I could agree with calling it uninspiring, but nothing worse.
        Thinkling I do agree though about “Rivers and Roads”. I think it was a very poor choice for the send off.

      • thinkling says:

        Dave, keep in mind this is S4, so the bottom of the list is still not terrible. Uninspiring is a good word. It’s one that I appreciate for the story they’re telling, and it has its good points and moments. It’s just in the bottom tier of a favorite season.

      • joe says:

        This is really OT, but I have to comment on Rivers and Roads, if only because I just recently had a small revelation about it.

        Like usual, the context is a bit personal. I usually go through my Chuck playlists in order as I take my walks, which usually last about 80 minutes. It takes me two or three week to get through a season’s set that way, and generally a whole season (like spring, summer or fall) to get through all of them. But this last time when I got to Rivers and Roads, I realized it was a great ending, much more satisfying than Nate Highfield’s Never Seen Nothing Like You (the music used on the alternate beach scene). That was a complete reversal for me.

        I think it was because it came at the end of a long effort, the end of a long walk and the end of a long summer. The song felt like a proper goodbye and a proper ending for a job well done. It was no longer a song between Chuck and Sarah, but definitely a song from the cast and crew to the fans; I can read it that way now.

        Perhaps it wasn’t what we wanted to hear on that night, but in retrospect, we had heard the music we wanted already. At least, I had. This was something in addition to that and I like it a lot.

      • thinkling says:

        Thanks, Joe. I’ll have to take another listen.

      • uplink2 says:

        We’ve had this discussion before but the problem for me is that I find nothing positive in that song. Plus in your description of it being from the cast and crew in a way I think that doesn’t make sense to me. It took all that effort on “our” part, crew talking here, to get to a moment of indefinite meaning, ambiguity, deep sadness for what was lost and no absolute clear definition that what these two and us, the fans, lost would ever be returned or made whole again? That taking this long journey of Rivers and Roads to reach each other was pointless as the journey now means nothing?

        I can’t say that makes me feel any better about it at all.

      • atcDave says:

        Bill “It is real” is the only one of those moments I think they flushed. The gun tossed on the bed remains a favorite of mine. I would say there was no turning back for Sarah from that point. And I know your objection, “but she ran off on a mission right away…”
        Well my response is, “I don’t care.” It was never about the mission or the spy biz, not really. Its the moment we knew, and she knew, she’d decided for Chuck and there would be no turning back and no regrets. It took less than 15 minutes screen time from the gun tossed on the bed, until Chuck KNEW Sarah was with him.
        You know I’m no defender of S3, I still consider the bulk of it a complete disaster. But from the end of American Hero on I am pleased with what we saw. Never THAT journey, but the destination sure was awesome.

      • uplink2 says:

        I’ve been thinking about this some more Joe and I think much pf how a viewer responds to Rivers and Roads is related to how one views the ending of the series. If you loved the ending and view it as beautiful and fitting then Rivers and Roads can be seen that way. If you find it incomplete and way too little redemption for way too much pain and hurt, then you probably don’t.

        But here is where I think it differs from say the use of Sylvia in this episode. I think Sylvia gives us a very clear understanding of what the story was they were telling us. It helps us interpret what we see on screen and conveys the exact emotion they wanted us to take away. But Rivers and Roads doesn’t do that. For me it only adds to the ambiguity and feeling of loss with no clearcut sign of making that loss whole. It doesn’t tell me anything to help explain what I’m seeing. It simply adds to the confusion. But maybe that is what they were going for I don’t know. But the series ending can be seen is so many ways from horribly negative to very positive and R&R does nothing to narrow that span of interpretation. Sylvia does the exact opposite for me. It pinpoints the story perfectly and there is no ambiguity at all in the message, something I wish the finale had spoken too much more.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        That’s funny Joe, I’ve always considered it the cast and crew talking to the fans through Rivers and Roads, but that it also fit the theme of Chuck sharing their cherished memories with Sarah, the notion of a journey, that while it may be hard and more hardship may be to come, isn’t over yet.

        Also loved Chuck Versus The Muuuurder, but understand that least inspiring of season 4 isn’t exactly bashing the way some of the season that shall not be named got. My least inspiring of season 4 might be Chuck Versus The Couch Lock or Chuck Versus The Family Volkoff. But both are still very enjoyable episodes.

      • Totally with Joe here. Rivers and Roads MADE the finale for me. That one song singlehandedly took it from being a down note to my favorite TV episode of all time. It’s just a beautiful song and a perfect ending. It brings me to tears to this day.

      • “Rivers ’til I’m with you,” followed by the fade to black, gives me chills just thinking about it. Uplink, I bet you’re totally right. I can’t imagine being as satisfied with the ending without that exact song playing. The combination between the care and longing of the music and the sheer determination of the lyrics is just everything I ever wanted Chuck to express.

        Chuck might’ve had “objectively” better moments, and there are certainly objectively better shows. But I can’t manage to be objective about Chuck or Goodbye. That single closing moment, in the full context of the previous five years and the last two episodes, is simply my favorite scene in any work of fiction.

      • atcDave says:

        Wow, yeah I’d say the exact opposite about “Rivers and Roads”. To me it suggests a long ways to go yet, which is exactly contrary to what I would call a good ending.

      • uplink2 says:

        Arthur thanks for the response but I have to totally disagree with you. Here are the lyrics to the song:

        “Rivers And Roads”

        A year from now we’ll all be gone
        All our friends will move away
        And they’re goin’ to better places
        But our friends will be gone away

        Nothin’ is as it has been
        And I miss your face like hell
        And I guess it’s just as well
        But I miss your face like hell

        [Chanting]

        Been talkin’ ’bout the way things change
        And my family lives in a different state
        If you don’t know what to make of this
        Then we will not relate
        So if you don’t know what to make of this
        Then we will not relate

        [Chanting]

        Rivers and roads
        Rivers and roads
        Rivers ’til I reach you
        [Repeat 9x]

        No disrespect as this is all very subjective but what in those lyrics is at all optimistic or positive? I simply done see it. It’s about a long long journey to reach someone and everything has changed and if they don’t understand that change then they can’t connect or “relate”. To me it’s about someone missing someone deeply, life has changed and they may not be what they were ever again. It’s a long long journey that simply may not get to where they want to be or once were.

        To me that is the essence of the finale. There is no absolute positive ending. Though I believe/hope they left the beach together nothing about the use of that song confirms that. In fact it confirms the opposite to me that nothing is certain and that is what I dislike about the finale. All those Rivers and Roads they took to reach each other could mean absolutely nothing because if she doesn’t know what to make of this, then they will not relate.

        It is an attempt like much of the finale to reach a particular emotional response and realization. For you it hit that moment. For me it didn’t. In fact it brings us to an empty canvas ahead with absolutely no assurance that they can ever relate again. It simply isn’t what the show, the fans and particularly Sarah Bartowski deserved. I’m really happy for you that it makes that moment but as I read those lyrics I see nothing that says to me, it’s all good. It doesn’t sell the emotion they seem from their post finale interviews wanted to convey. A happy positive ending. It was an artistic ending where they changed the tone of the show in its final moment. I wanted to say goodbye to Chuck and Sarah Bartowski and know that Sarah in particular was ok and would get the life she deserved with the man who adored her and she once adored. Nothing in Rivers and Roads tells me that happened. It’s a bittersweet song for a bittersweet ending and I simply wanted more. I wanted another Feeling Good.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah Uplink I think if a song had been chosen that suggested that they had overcome so much, but had finally made it, I would have felt far better about the end. But “Rivers and Roads” seems more about how much hard journey still lies ahead. That’s the opposite of the end I wanted.

      • anthropocene says:

        I expect that when we finally get to 5.13 for real, there will be renewed debate and discussion of alternative endings and imaginary sequels. It would be fun to include suggestions for songs other than “Rivers and Roads” as well. I’ve got my nominee.

      • joe says:

        That’s a great idea, Antho. Be sure to remind me when we get there.

      • uplink2 says:

        I’ll tell you in trying to give them a sincere chance to make that finale work for me and find whatever I can to more fully accept it for the beauty many see in it, and there are some great things about it mainly the performances by Yvonne and Zach, I have read those lyrics probably 50 times or more. Now I know much of how we appreciate music is the experience of feeling the song, how it impacts us, the melodic tones, the changes and the emotion that the singers put into it. There is quite a bit of emotion from the artists especially on the chorus but it comes comes down to the lyrics to sell that point. Besides Nina Simone’s incredible performance it’s the lyrics that make Feeling Good such a powerful anthem for the new Sarah Walker. It truly was a new dawn, a new day for her and she was feeling good. But try as I might I can’t find what folks seem to find when they believe that song is perfect. Well it isn’t if you want a hopeful and positive ending where you can walk away from the show knowing absolutely with 100% certainty that Chuck and Sarah Bartowski have that joyous and happy life ahead that we saw them moving towards until Sarah put on those glasses. That she adores Chuck with all her heart and fully understands the changes that have happened to her since she walked into the BuyMore 5 years ago. No one can tell us that, even Fedak and Schwartz. in part because they don’t want to. Somehow to them falling in love again is better than being in love and I could not disagree more.

        But this song choice doesn’t lend itself to any of that. It’s a song of loss, change and the possibility that the journey will lead nowhere. That’s not what Chuck and especially Sarah deserved at the end. I rewatched Beefcake and Lethal Weapon tonight and it made me think of how sad it is that Sarah might not have that moment at the fountain and the hope and belief in the possibility of a future it created. How she committed herself to a dream that Chuck laid out there before her. All of that and so many other moments gone from her mind and heart forever. What a tragedy that is for anyone to endure but especially for someone who had so many obstacles placed in front of her since she was a little girl. For Chuck to know that all of this happened and not be able to share the ups and downs, highs and lows of his life with the woman who was by his side through it all. Those Rivers and Roads that Sarah Bartowski will never know what to make of this and will never be able to fully relate with the man who was there for her and at one time she worshiped completely and would lay down her life for a thousand times over. To take that away from her and not show us that she will be made whole again is a real tragedy.

        Sorry for the overly dramatic posting but I’ve been in a bit of a mood for a while now with everything concerning this show for me

      • atcDave says:

        Uplink I never doubt music inspires strong passions. Feeling Good was such a perfect song and beautiful moment.
        I really like Anthro’s suggestion of alternate songs for the finale, we will do that!

        For now, I have made my peace with it, I am satisfied all is well. But its because of other clues in the episode and external sources (interviews). I have come to like the finale in spite of the last song chosen, not because of it.

      • Jason says:

        It was an odd ending didn’t fit the show. The meoldy of RR is a hauntingly melancholy tune, beautiful really, but seems to fit Sarah’s words in baby when she asks Chuck to carve the initials. I think the house was symbolic of the happy ending, when Sarah asked Chuck to carve she said something like we might not have the house yet, but with lots of hard work, we’ll get there. For some reason, the show decided to not say goodbye to fans and tie the show up in a happy bow, instead, right to the bittersweet end and beyond, forever really, the show didn’t end. I didn’t like it at all, even though I would not call it an F end, a C, what really torqued me is the unhappy two episodes that set up the C ending, both eps were F’s in my mind, as five seasons of the Chuck and Sarah story ended on the Bullet Train. The two characters in the last two eps relationship was something else other than Chuck and Sarah Bartowski, something I didn’t like at all. I felt a great deal watching the last two eps like I felt watching season 3’s misery arc, the only difference, the show ended as if Sarah was in her room packing, either to go to DC or to go with Chuck, and we’ll never know.

      • mr2686 says:

        I can’t really say much about Gobbler that hasn’t already been said. I am very fond of this episode even though it ranks smack dab in the middle of the 91 episodes for me. So many great things in this episode and it re-watches really well, which I see that many of you agree on.
        I did want to comment on the discussion of Rivers and Roads. For me, I thought it was a very positive song. I’ve always said that if it was rivers and roads to reach you, or rivers and roads to find you, I wouldn’t have been as upbeat, but till I reach you, to me, means that he’ll do what it takes to travel the rivers and roads of Sarah’s memories to reach her (emotionally). Kinda reminds me of the Glen Campbell song “Gentle On My Mind” where he sings
        And it’s knowing I’m not shackled
        By forgotten words and bonds
        And the ink stains that have dried upon some line
        That keeps you in the backroads
        By the rivers of my mem’ry
        That keeps you ever gentle on my mind

        I was going to try and put in to words what Rivers and Roads and the beach scene really meant to me, but I cannot put it any better than Arthur already has:
        “That single closing moment, in the full context of the previous five years and the last two episodes, is simply my favorite scene in any work of fiction.”

      • Okay, Dave and Uplink both brought up related points, so I’ll respond to you both the best way I can. Sorry in advance if this runs long.

        Dave, so often when we talk, I feel like we agree on our premises and disagree on the conclusions. Your comment that Rivers and Roads “suggests a long ways to go yet” is something I completely agree with. The only time a person’s story truly ends is when they die. There’s no happily ever after, and I find such endings false. Even if Sarah’s memory rebounded, they would have a thousand struggles, fights and challenges ahead of them.

        …Rivers and Roads…

        Rivers and Roads isn’t about a happy ending, or even an ending. It’s a mission statement; it’s an affirmation of love. Most importantly, it’s an assertion of complete, unwavering commitment to the person you love.

        It’s obvious that the phrase “rivers and roads” is a metaphor for struggle, and we’re seeing them go through about the worst struggle imaginable. If, at the end of Goodbye, TPTB simply said, “oh, you know this huge challenge we just put in front of these two characters? Syke! Lol, j/k, Sarah’s memory is back,” that would invalidate everything that preceded it.

        Rivers and Roads…

        Chuck (the show) doesn’t shrug off the challenge here. It doesn’t sugarcoat the enormity of the problem facing its best characters. And it doesn’t revoke the dilemma as if it didn’t exist. Its solution is much braver and more heroic.

        The beauty of Chuck has always been that it’s cast held on to their loved ones in the face of any and all challenges. The beauty of Sarah/Goodbye is that Chuck, faced with every possible reason to lie down, give up, and let go of the one he loves, refuses to do so – even as the rest of the world does. His love for Sarah is enduring beyond struggle, beyond experience, and literally beyond time itself. The beauty here is that Sarah, even without conscious choice, is drawn back to Chuck over and over again. Goodbye is the statement that the bond between these two people is *literally* transcendent and unbreakable.

        Rivers and Roads…

        Dave and Uplink are right that Rivers and Roads does not offer a concrete ending, or an ending at all. And that’s great. I don’t want this story to end, and I don’t believe that Chuck and Sarah’s story would end in a fairy tale.

        Rivers and Roads is a statement of inevitability. It’s a statement about the unbreakable bond that we’ve seen built between these two people for five years. Chuck and Goodbye make the statement that love itself is the most powerful and valuable thing that we can attain, and that no force in existence can damage it – as long as we hold onto it with everything we can muster. It’s everything Chuck and Sarah stood for, and it’s one of the most beautiful ideas I’ve ever encountered.

        Rivers… until I’m with you.

        Because there is no river or road that could keep us apart.

      • uplink, I see your overdramatic posting and raise you another overdramatic posting! 🙂

      • uplink2 says:

        Arthur, first of all I have to say bravo for that posting. Extremely well written and I am certain a deeply felt emotional expression of what you saw and heard. I have to say in many ways I’m really envious that you could come to such a profound experience for you. I see many of your points, I just don’t happen to agree with all of them nor did I take anything like that from those final moments and the emotions of that song. It really is a very subjective experience.

        But out of respect for such a fantastic write up, I did want to comment on a few things. First while I see your point about love being the strongest thing:

        His love for Sarah is enduring beyond struggle, beyond experience, and literally beyond time itself. The beauty here is that Sarah, even without conscious choice, is drawn back to Chuck over and over again. Goodbye is the statement that the bond between these two people is *literally* transcendent and unbreakable.

        That statement I agree with completely and it’s why I believe they left that beach together and why on several occasions Sarah was unable to follow Quinn’s orders. Something “transcendent” was taking over her and she simply couldn’t resist it. Her body and soul were telling her not to do what her mind was telling her she must. She had physically and emotionally transformed into someone else and she couldn’t go back. And I believe that is a noble story to tell. But the issue I can’t escape from was nothing was shown to tell me that her unbearable loss and Chuck’s agony at seeing the woman he worships not know him was ever going to be made whole again. To Chuck, Sarah was almost like a severe Alzheimers patient and I’ve seen the tragedy of a person who is loved deeply not remember anything about it or that love they once felt. It’s a horrible tragedy and that is what happened to Chuck and Sarah. I’ve always known their love would survive anything. It’s the only way I could sit through that disaster of season 3. But I wanted to see that pain be wiped away. For Sarah to know fully what her life had been over those 5 years beyond just the order of cups on a counter or Irene Demova. I wanted and needed to know that Sarah remembered him, what he meant to her, and what their lives were like and why she absolutely adored him from the first moment she set eyes on him.

        I really don’t think that the horrific tragedy of what happened to Sarah and Chuck can be made right again in basically 2 minutes of screen time. Too much tragedy for too little redemption.

        Second I sincerely don’t get the feeling of inevitability from Rivers and Roads. They talk about lives being changed and if the other doesn’t know what to make of this then they will not relate. That to me says that if Sarah can’t come to terms with what has happened, Chuck and Sarah will be no more. It isn’t inevitable that they reach each other. It’s as sad and depressing for me as it seems to be uplifting to you. Sometimes we, the collective we, just see things totally differently.

        But last though I appreciate that you don’t want an end to their story. I can certainly agree with that. Even though these are fictional characters, I want and sometimes need to believe they are out there somewhere looking at each other with a love that is so incredibly special. That transcendent love you talk about. But I needed to be able to say goodbye to them. To know Sarah is whole, and that she remembers why she kissed him at the docks not just that someone told her she did. That she can remember that passion of waking up in that seedy motel in Barstow or that at one time in her life she walked down the aisle in a white dress to the man she was completely and totally in love with. I need to know she remembers that moment to be able to say Goodbye to someone I love.

        The beach and Rivers and Roads give me none of that. It may confirm the triumph of love but it does nothing to lessen the tragedy and loss of what brought them there. For some that may be ok, but for me it isn’t. I need to know that Sarah Bartowski is whole again.

      • atcDave says:

        I think saying “life is a journey” sort of misses the point. Its a nice true statement like “rain is wet”, but in this particular case we’re looking at a specific issue with a specific resolution/destination; or not. No matter what the future holds, the burning issue is, did Chuck and Sarah leave that beach together. The song STRONGLY suggests not, because the journey is still ahead.
        I needed, many viewers needed, some assurance that this particular stage of the journey was over, and Chuck and Sarah were ready for what ever comes next, together. And that’s an end, an assurance that neither the show nor song adequately provided.

        Now we’ve had this discussion at length. For like six solid months after the finale ran. And I think most of us are now satisfied that things did in fact end well. But THAT SONG will remain a huge part of the reason why many of us did not care the end at all.

      • Dave, did you use your God-like admin powers to delete your first response, or did I just dream that? 🙂

        I do think that reducing my entire argument to a phrase I never even wrote (life is a journey) is a bit unfair. Even if you think that sentiment is the basis of my post, to criticize the phrase itself is a strawman argument.

        Uplink, thanks for the compliment. It’s fine that you disagree with me; that happens sometimes. But you did ask how I could feel the way I did. All I can do is answer the question.

        I can see your point about “then we will not relate,” though I don’t assign the same impact to it. On sequential reasoning, I take the end of the song to be its conclusion. Also, it’s possible to not relate to somebody you’re in love with on a single issue. With that said, I didn’t hear it while watching the episode (though I did when I downloaded the song), so any defense I make of it is really post hoc reasoning.

        And you’re right. What happened to Sarah was awful and tragic. But it happened in Bullet Train. And if you don’t think TPTB should’ve done it, that’s fine, though I found it effective. But tragedies happen to people, and Sarah/Goodbye is about how a group of people deal with tragedy. I’m sure we’ve all had trials in our lives. But I’ve never had a tragedy where thematic agency swooped out of the sky and revoked it for me. Dealing with our tragedies is one of the greatest challenges we face. It’s the manner in which Sarah/Goodbye does so that is the beauty of this episode to me.

        We’ll just have to agree to disagree, I think. Sorry I couldn’t help.

        For what it’s worth, I found “Feeling Good” (one of my favorite songs) to be an unbearably awkward moment. You’re totally right about the song, and how it’s a great anthem for Sarah. And I still hated the actual scene; I can’t watch it to this day. Sometimes our first impressions irrevocably color our interpretations of events. I get it, and I sympathize with it; I just don’t share that experience.

      • atcDave says:

        Actually I deleted last night’s attempted response because I was tired, and it was a bit ruder in tone than I wanted. It’s always a challenge to be firm without being insulting, especially in text.
        But I do think my summation of your position is accurate, apart from some elaboration. And I didn’t feel like quoting a whole paragraph back. As I said, it’s true enough, it just isn’t quite the point of most objections. We all get that the finale is largely about how Chuck and Sarah are going to deal with their tragedy. Many of us have even said Sarah remembering everything isn’t really the issue either. It’s about living their life together, in spite of whatever damage was caused by their former profession. But that “together” part is the key to me. The show, the ending, the song, did not emphasize together. And that is the only issue I actually cared about.

        After the fact, CF stated that Chuck and Sarah were together, the ambiguity was meant to be what/when she remembered. That’s an ambiguity I can happily live with. But I had to take his word for it, because it took several viewings (and the extended cut) before I was completely satisfied that ending was delivered on screen.

  3. Ernie Davis says:

    This episode is a favorite of mine, and not just because of it’s being a part of the arc leading to the finale with “the best 10 minutes of Chuck EVER.” Thinkling has outlined a lot of what I like, the contrasts, the parallels back and forth between worlds, but the one thing that stands out for me in this episode is Alexei Volkoff. Sure Dalton takes Volkoff over-the-top, but the gleeful insanity and evil is not just fun to watch, Volkoff actually comes across at the evil super-villain who can manipulate or threaten anyone and anything Chuck (and Sarah and Mary) holds dear. He is at once wonderfully comic and credibly threatening in a way few other Chuck villains have managed to pull off.

    • thinkling says:

      Oh, yeah. He’s definitely no Tuttle. I thought they did a good job of gradually showing the depths of his evil. It was abrupt and shocking in FF. He was definitely a bad bad guy. Then in Leftovers, his insanity grew as did the depths of his rage. Then comes Gobbler, and we see that besides the insanity and rage is a calculating, evil manipulation. That and he has a hard time with disappointment. His craziness didn’t get in the way of his ability to scheme and control, but it did make him dangerously unpredictable. Seriously great bad guy. The many faces of Volkoff was a total win all season.

    • Yeah, and he’s terrific here. The way he hides his skepticism of Sarah, but manipulates her into situations to prove herself is just brilliant. First he puts three guns to her head. Then he sends her on a suicide mission – and secretly monitors her progress. And then he makes her kill her ex-teammate. Just a great performance that really enhances his believability as a super-villain.

  4. uplink2 says:

    Update from Mo Ryan, all five seasons of Chuck will be arriving on Netflix November 1st!!

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/maureen-ryan/netflix-guide_b_4135738.html?utm_hp_ref=tv

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Faith had tweeted the rumor a few days ago, but this is confirmation. Mo Ryan also had a lot of nice things to say about Chuck and the possibilities this opens for it to become more than what it was.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah that’s really a nice little write up she gave. Obviously it would be awesome if this turned into something big for Netflix, after all, they are starting to produce their own content…

      • anthropocene says:

        There are some really wonderful, underrated series (IMHO) on that list, such as DS9, one of my all-time favorites. How wonderful that Mo had “Chuck” as the “cherry on top!”

  5. noblz says:

    I liked Gobbler, especially viewed back to back with Push Mix. I’m with Uplink with my impressions of this one and Muuurder is my low spot for S4. Even then, I liked Muuurder in the beginning especially Sarah’s reaction to the geeks (like Brodie), that was priceless.

    Gobbler was a great set-up for Push Mix, excellent in fact. The ending would have been tough if it had been a stand alone.

    • thinkling says:

      Right Noblz — about Muuurder — the look on Sarah’s face was priceless. And the interrogation scene was good, too. Of course, I’d rather watch Chuck’s low spots than so much of what’s out there.

      • noblz says:

        Too right, Thinkling. Except for the three “never to be re-watched” episodes, even a Chuck Dud is better than almost everything else out there.

      • uplink2 says:

        That’s why season 4 is a favorite for me. Even the weakest episodes of season 4 are still decent entertainment. I can enjoy them even with the flaws. That’s not the case in some well noted prior seasons.

  6. Jason says:

    Gobbler was another ep that rewatched better than I recall it being. Live I recall being mad at the end of Balcony, then mad at the end of Gobbler, hence, I failed to appreciate much of the goodness of Gobbler. I can see why some of those watching Chuck for fun eventually left the show. But in the big picture, given that Sarah ended the show with no memory of anything anyhow, it makes the bad in Gobbler seem rather trivial, while the good was very good leading to the engagment then wedding that the happy ending the couple deserved, before everything was taken away and never returned on screen in s5’s love letter to the fans.

  7. Jason says:

    Gomez on Castle, loved it. Gomez can sort of act, he should be given a spot on some TV show as a regular, B type character as he is almost the perfect sidekick.

  8. I’m actually with Dave here. I really didn’t like this episode when it first came out, because I hated the separation angle. But if you divorce this episode from being the downer portion of this arc, it’s brilliantly written. They just do all of the little things right here:

    Casey’s an unsung hero in this episode. His advice to Morgan about love is hilarious. Who needs love? I built her a shelf yesterday! That type of action over words philosophy isn’t just perfect Casey, it’s then reflected in the show: Casey doesn’t want to talk about Chuck’s emotions, but he’ll put everything aside to make his friend feel better for a night. He doesn’t want to talk about their relationship, but he’s literally willing to leap out of a skyscraper for them.

    And Gobbler’s also beautifully directed. The Sarah/Casey fight scene one of the best of the series, and Chuck’s fight with the Gobbler is really top notch (it’s always great when Chuck really has to struggle). The Morgan/Casey tease infiltration of the jail, only to have it lead to birthday cake is just so Chuck.

    All in all, it’s a better leadup to my second-favorite episode.

    • BillAtWork says:

      Arthur,

      I agree. This is what I would say about most episodes. If you’re watching a single episode, you can almost always find something to be entertained. Sometimes you can even be moved to pump your fist. But when you try and piece those single episodes into a story, it all breaks down.

      That’s why, for my, money, they made a mistake switching from an episodic format to a serial one. The mission of the week format worked so much better. I didn’t have to try and figure out where the long term story was going. It’s why episodes like DeLorean, Seduction, Santa Claus, etc are so high on the list.

    • atcDave says:

      Hey Arthur it’s great getting allies in different places! Although I’m not sure I’d go so far as “brilliant”, but it certainly is a lot of fun apart from some of the issues I mentioned.

      Bill I wouldn’t put it quite as strongly as you, but I generally agree the episodic format works better for Chuck. Of course I generally prefer episodic stories anyway. Chuck does manage a few really outstanding arcs, but occasionally things do bog down in the middle. Which is often my complaint with any show’s longer arcs. But this really isn’t a “longer” arc, it’s just two down endings in a row, and neither proves to be a big deal in the full context.

      • BillAtWork says:

        Yeah, Dave.

        That is almost exactly my point. Almost nothing about almost any Chuck episode proves to be a big deal in the full context.

        And that’s why (well part of the reason) why there is so much disagreement on these pages.

        Some people can point to the things that happen inside of an episode and say “Wow. That was great.” And they have a point.

        But others can point to the story in general and say “Wow. That makes my head hurt.” And they have an equally valid point.

        This is actually an episode that rewatches better than seeing it originally. Watching it originally, I got caught up in the downer mood of the pretend angst. And that kept me from seeing the very funny parts. Rewatching, I knew that the angst was a manipulation, so I was able to relax more and see the fun parts.

        And that’s sort of my point. Why they kept throwing that silly, manipulative faux angst in your face is beside me. It kept some (well, me at least) from enjoying the story as well as I might have. And BTW, it added nothing.

      • atcDave says:

        I agree, I’m no fan of the angst, and the episode certainly re-watches better than it seemed initially.

      • Bill, there were a lot of “episodic” episodes that most people rank lowly – like Muuurder. And many episodes that rank highly (Colonel/Ring, Push Mix, Phase 3) that are inseparable from their arcs. And personally, all of my favorite episodes except honeymooners were the culmination of an arc.

        You’re right that the arcs hurt episodes like Gobbler. But when that tradeoff leads to episodes like Push Mix, I’m more than happy with it. You’re of course welcome to disagree with that valuation, but I can’t make a stronger argument than loving the results.

      • BillAtWork says:

        But Arthur. Why did you need the angst of Balcony and Gobbler to get Push Mix? Why not have a 3 episode arc of C/S working together to take down Volkoff? Make it harder. Make it tense. Make it look like they are going to fail. But have them face it together.

        And I agree that there are some clunkers in the episodics. You left out 3D. But I will say that the conclusion of the arcs are never in my list of favorites. The image of Chuck on his knee proposing as the credits roll was a nice scene. But was it the payoff of 10 episodes of wt/wt? Was the payoff in Ring II capturing 6 accountants in a stairwell? Was the 2 minute wedding really the payoff for 11 episodes of wt/wt?

        That’s why I like the episodic format better. Telling a consistent long term story, building up the suspense, and then paying off is simply not their strength. I’d much rather they stuck to the mission of the week format where they didn’t have that burden.

      • atcDave says:

        Not to mention the outstanding stand alones from Tom Sawyer to Best Friend to Wedding Planner…
        Really, most of my favorites are the stand alone episodes.

      • thinkling says:

        Dave, you left out Cougars and DeLorean and Baby … excellent stand alones, which also happen to be Sarah centric episodes. I may be sensing a pattern here. 🙂

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah no doubt! All Sarah episodes are among the very best, and only Phase Three is really an arc episode.

      • thinkling says:

        @Bill:
        I’ll start with the easy one. As to why Sarah was led off in chains, I always assumed it was to sell the whole rogue agent thing. But I think we already covered that already. How did she end up in Europe. I suppose everyone (all the bad guys she ended up working for and Volkoff’s eyes and ears) was to assume she escaped. With so little screen time, Chuck packs an episode better than most shows. There are some things they don’t have time to show. That’s one I don’t really need to see to follow along.

        Why did you need the angst of Balcony and Gobbler to get Push Mix? Why not have a 3 episode arc of C/S working together to take down Volkoff? Make it harder. Make it tense. Make it look like they are going to fail. But have them face it together.

        Okay, you asked another question. So, I’d like to offer an answer.

        Scraping aside the layer of requisite angst to pay the dues to TV trope, even you admitted in one comment that the angst of Gobbler was organic, until you complained about it as being unnecessary and manipulative in another comment.

        So … Why? Externally, Occam’s Razor here. That’s the story they wanted to tell. Was it a valid story? Absolutely. It was perfectly valid, even poetic, to have Sarah’s mission bookend Mary’s and Chuck’s bookend his fathers. They did make it tense. They did make it hard. They did make it look like they might fail. Internally, I think they wanted to answer the question Will Chuck and Sarah become his parents or will they succeed where Stephen and Mary failed? To answer those questions, I suppose they liked the idea of putting them in similar missions. So do I. And of course ultimately they did finish it together, with each one doing what he/she does best.

        Sarah going off on her own never made sense and it was never effective. Even from their perspective, the team was only effective when it became a team.

        Actually, it did make sense and it was effective, as I stated in my part of the review. Sarah had to be the one to do this mission, not only from a story telling perspective, but also because no one else would be remotely believable for Volkoff to accept or suitably interesting for him to toy with. By “from a story telling perspective,” I meant Sarah’s mission being the bookend to Mary’s — Sarah joining Mary to finish her mission. (Which mirrors Chuck finishing his dad’s mission.) The reason Mary went under cover to begin with was because taking Volkoff down from the outside had failed. Now the man (uh, woman) inside needs help. It makes all kinds of sense for Sarah to be the partner to help Mary on the inside. To say that Sarah and Mary weren’t effective until Chuck showed up is simply not true. Mary having a partner on the inside made all the difference. Mary knew Uri was the key to Hydra, which was the key to bringing Volkoff down. Sarah used her team to help her break him out of prison. Mary recovered the eyeball innards, and Sarah got them to Chuck via Casey. Then Mary and Sarah broke into Volkoff’s office and found the location of his network, the brains of his operation. Without Sarah’s work on the inside, Chuck wouldn’t have been able to do what he did to join the mission. From there they worked together: Chuck finishing what his dad started and Sarah making sure Mary got out.

        That’s the story. It is what it is, and I find it to be a valid story, one that makes sense in the context of S4, and one that was very satisfying. Might I have liked a different approach even better? Maybe. But I need to see it before I can know. It’s kind of a moot point, one that can only be answered in fanfiction.

        Here’s the difference between us Bill, and it makes our discussions like skewed lines, because we’re talking about different stories. I base my comments on the show that aired, the story they told. You base your comments on the story you wish they had told, one that was never told but, in your opinion, should have been, because it would have been so much better.

        I watch the episode: try to understand the story they are telling, analyze it, explain it, and say what I liked or what I didn’t. I think that’s fair. What I find utterly unfair is to constantly compare Chuck to a phantom story and then declare Chuck the loser.

        Want to make the discussion fair? Write the story that would have been better, bring it to us, and then we’ll have a basis for comparison.

      • BillAtWork says:

        Thinkling,

        I’m going to keep trying. Because you’ve become a quest to me. I still have some hope of convincing you. Okay, so maybe I’m delusional. Did I mention that my wife is a retired teacher too? She was a preschool teacher. So the logical argument I’m about to make wouldn’t appeal to her. In fact nothing about the show appeals to her. She has never watched an entire episode. And she thinks my obsession with the show is… well, obsessive. 

        But I have high hopes for you. You’re a math teacher. I’m hoping you taught Geometry. Because this argument should be right in your wheel house.

        I asked how Sarah got to Europe for a very good reason. The last we saw Sarah, was this incredibly angsty scene of her being led off in chains. Next thing we know she is standing in Volkoff’s office after doing a series of rogue missions across Europe. But here is the point. They never told us what tied those 2 events together. Did she escape? With all due respect, you’re just guessing. Because they never told you. In fact the scene in Volkoff’s office works just as well if you had never seen Gobbler. Sarah going rogue and wanting a big payday stands on its own just as well.

        So I would argue that makes the end of Balcony gratuitous… angst for angst’s sake. Not only that, it’s the kind of manipulative angst that sucks the fun out of the episode and you can see it coming from a mile away. It’s the kind of angst that we had already grown fatigued from.

        So if you’re with me so far, it begs the question, why would they do that? Did they sit in the writer’s room and say, “let’s put something in that sucks the fun out and pisses Bill and those who think like him off?” Maybe, but I doubt it. I think it’s far more likely that they felt that scene and it’s associated angst would appeal to their audience. And that’s my argument. They misunderstand what I wanted. And since it’s mathematical fact that their ratings were in steady decline, I would submit that as evidence they weren’t appealing to their audience.

        Want to make the discussion fair? Write the story that would have been better, bring it to us, and then we’ll have a basis for comparison.

        Really? You haven’t read my fanfic? That saddens me. Because C/S fighting the world together is pretty much my constant theme.

        So if you are going to read anything, I’d suggest The Long Road Back.

        http://www.fanfiction.net/s/6895222/1/The-Long-Road-Back
        Warning, it’s 57 chapters and about 300k words. It tells the story of Chuck’s family and their secret war that I would have told had Chris Fedak asked me (and sadly, he didn’t). I’m not sure that you’ll like it, but WTH?
        It’s actually a sequel of a story I wrote together with BrickRoad16 that you might actually like better.
        http://www.fanfiction.net/s/6670682/1/The-Long-Brick-Road
        BrickRoad actually reminds me a lot of you. She is also fiercely protective of the creative team, far more than Joe and Ernie combined. She also became a missionary teaching English and wants to become a professional writer. She is great at taking the characters and making them softer, more believable. If someone asked me to read a single chapter of mine, it would be chapter 2 of LBR. Immediately after Lethal Weapon Ellie finds out the truth and goes on a tirade at Sarah over how she is treating Chuck, this honest guy who loves her. It probably could be read on its own without too much confusion.
        http://www.fanfiction.net/s/6670682/2/The-Long-Brick-Road
        If I had to pick a single story of my own that I think you might like, it would be Therapy. And not because it’s only 6 chapters, lol.
        http://www.fanfiction.net/s/7895823/1/Chuck-vs-Therapy-ReMastered
        So, I did my part, lol.

      • Well Bill, if you don’t like the finales as much as I do, and you like one-offs better than I like them, then you’re totally justified in wishing they’d made more one-offs. I just don’t happen to share that valuation.

        Furthermore, with the exception of 3.0, I don’t see there being anything to “pay off.” You seem to be making the argument that the resolution is responsible for amending all the bad moments of the show, and that none of the other good moments matter in their context. I don’t understand that.

        I’m also not sure I understand your alternative. Is it for them to get married in Anniversary, and then just never talk about it again? Or to never mention the proposal until Push Mix? How do you resolve handling large issues without ever having them cross over into multiple episodes? I would hate for Chuck to be in a Seinfeld format; it would ruin everything I like about the show.

        Lastly, I think you’re confusing wt/wt (Seasons 1-3.0) with simply leading up to an event (4.5). If 4.5 is wt/wt, then absolutely anything that acknowledges a goal is wt/wt.

      • uplink2 says:

        Arthur I’d have to say that I don’t like the inclusion of 3.0 in your season 1-3.0 WTWT groupings. It should have its own classification. Season 1 and 2 WTWT was for the most part very well executed, clearly showing the reasons and logic behind it, character driven, and all building to a climactic ending in Bastow, book ended with “It is real” and more great hand porn. That moment ended the viability of WTWT for this series on any true, honest, substantive relationship level. S3.0 is something unto itself and it screams contrivance and manipulation. It had absolutely nothing to do with the characters as we knew them. There is no honest story telling to it as it is just so forced and obviously one more trip back to an empty and long since dried up well. Made even worse by an incredibly poorly constructed and cast character. It belongs nowhere near season 1 and 2 WTWT.

        Season 4 and 5 WTWT doesn’t really bother me as for the most part it does go back to being based on a logical, character driven story that at times is incredibly enjoyable. Sure there were probably better ways to tell that story but I agree with Thinkling, it was a legitimate and worthy story to tell that fit the characters and I enjoyed much of it. But season 3 is an animal all to itself. I simply don’t want to see the great story, and yes the great WTWT of season 1 and 2 tarnished by the contrived disaster of season 3 and Shaw.

      • atcDave says:

        Bill I think this comment got stuck in the spam filter because of the number of links. I’m sure if someone else with editing privileges removed for some other reason it will disappear again (!).

        I think where we butt heads sometimes is just that always fine line between wanting something better, and accepting what we got. I do agree with much of the sentiment you express, I think Balcony would have been a better episode with a more upbeat end. It would have required only the smallest of changes to the start of Gobbler to explain Sarah’s “rogue” mission to find Volkoff. I suspect many viewers would have preferred fewer of the angst cliffhanger endings.
        But I do want to say again I think they overall did very well with S4. I only can think of two episodes all season that ended in ways that bothered me a little. They were back to back, which is a bummer. But the resolution is a lot of fun, and they won’t do it again. So although I can imagine things being more to my liking, it’s not a huge thing to me.

      • thinkling says:

        Bill, I know you’ve written good stories, but at the moment, you are consistently criticizing S4. In that context, the comparison would be with a different, remarkably better version of the S4 story, i.e. the mom story.

        How Sarah got to Europe just isn’t that big a deal to me. I don’t see the problem, and I still say that the chains and arrest are to sell her cover as a rogue agent (at least that’s what Sarah said), someone who has already betrayed her country and been arrested for it. If they’re going to sell it, they can’t sell it half way. I infer that, in keeping with the setup, she appears, as far as the bad guys are concerned, to have escaped. I don’t have to see it. It’s the only logical path to set up her story, because they don’t just let you go after being arrested for treason. So, she shows up in EU as a rogue agent and a fugitive. As a fugitive, Sarah is more believable to Volkoff than as if she had just run away on her own out of the blue. I don’t think that the omission of the her escape invalidates the set up at the end of Balcony.

      • BillAtWork says:

        See, I don’t agree that I am consistently criticizing S4. I get that anything short of constant praise on this page gets defined as consistently criticizing. But that’s not only incorrect, it’s patently unfair. I like most of S4. I’ve repeatedly said so. Phase Three is in my handful of favorite episodes. I’m simply bemoaning their instincts to go to the angst well. I think they did it far too often, it was well past its expiration date, it was sometimes gratuitous, and it lessened my enjoyment of the product. Balcony was gratuitous in my opinion. That you can fanwank it to make sense doesn’t really matter to me. It wasn’t required for the story. The end of Santa Suit is an even better example.

        The Long Road Back is basically the story of the Bartowski Family, including mom. And how Steven got hooked up with Ted Roark, Agent Frost and the CIA. Have you read it? It explains why they left the kids and what they had been doing for the past 20 years. Is it ‘remarkably better’ than S4? I don’t think a comparison between the 2 mediums is particularly valid under the best of circumstances. I don’t have Yvonne Strahovski and Zac Levi portraying my story. But I also have advantages that the TV medium doesn’t have. I can tell you what the characters are thinking. My chapters don’t have to fit inside of a 42 minute window. I don’t have to service the Jeffster characters for 14 minutes out of that 42. I don’t have to show them eating a Subway in every chapter. And I can have them say ILY, get engaged, get married, and want a family, without dragging it out past its expiration date to the point where the reader no longer cares. I can do those things, say ‘the end’, and start over.

        I will say this. I don’t buy what they tried to sell us about Mary Bartowski. I like the storyline of LRH and the Frost character far better than I do the storyline and Frost of S4. If that wasn’t true, I wouldn’t have taken the effort to write it. Did I execute it well? That’s an eye of the beholder thing. I don’t claim to be a professional. And I never felt like I was competing with the show anyway.

        Is your point that you can’t criticize something unless you can do it ‘remarkably better?’ Isn’t that any consumer’s basic right? I can’t build a car. But I know when I’ve bought a lousy one. And I’m not even criticizing angst. LRH has plenty of angst, way more than S4. But it is never gratuitous (there is some gratuitous sex, lol).

      • Jason says:

        It is a pretty common way to avoid misery arcs in all tv, time jump 6 months in about 5 minutes of tv time while bad stuff happens. Too bad that didn’t happen in the Pink Slip ep. I can just imagine how the fan base would have errupted positively, if Pink Slip ended under the Eiffel Tower, and the second ep that night had been the Honeymooners. I’ll bet Chuck would have had a billion people watching s3 if that had happened LOL. Not a large bet mind you, what is the currency of Costa Gravis again?

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah Jason I agree with that.

  9. resaw says:

    I didn’t have really positive memories of this episode, but I, too, felt that this re-watch led to a greater appreciation of the story than I had previously held. I think I was distracted by Yuri when I should have paid attention to the rest of the story. For my part, I really liked the tension, the high stakes that were involved in this story. Is Sarah going to be able to take down Volkoff, bring Mary home, and retain the integrity of the woman she had become with Chuck while she’s doing what needs to be done in order to accomplish her goals? It may have been a throwaway line, but early on Casey said that Sarah had been all over Europe, taking jobs as a rogue agent, in order to bring herself to Volkoff’s attention. To what depths did she need to sink in order to get to Volkoff? We know, of course, that with his cooperation, she nearly killed Casey. What else had she done before she walked into Volkoff’s office?

    Gotta agree that Miika Snow’s Silvia was an awesome song to play, although for me, it was the ominous tone of the opening piano that got me.

    I didn’t get to re-watch this episode until after reading your reviews, Dave, Joe and Thinkling, contrary to my usual approach. Thank you for your thoughts, because I think it helped me gain a better and more appreciative perspective of the story.

    • BillAtWork says:

      A couple of things.

      First, how did Sarah get from being under arrest and led away in chains – to be running around Europe taking jobs as a rogue agent? Did she escape? Was she released for some reason? Maybe she wasn’t read her Miranda rights, lol. They never told us. It makes the whole end of Balcony, not only make no sense, but feel contrived and S3ish.

      But the 2nd thing is more important. I think here is another example of them simply not understanding their audience. I mean, how many people here have said that they didn’t care for the episode when it aired but were able to like it a lot better upon rewatch? Many of the people who have said that on this post, I wouldn’t classify as pure shippers. So why is it such a majority opinion here?

      Many people here say that S4 is their favorite season. So why did ratings tank? I’ve heard two main theories. Well, three if we include DST. The first is that people simply got tired of the never ending wt/wt and misery of mid S3, left and never came back. The second is that once they put C/S together, the story people had been watching for was over and they drifted away.

      I happen to believe that both theories are true to some extent. I firmly believe that a large number of people simply got overwhelmed by the wt/wt fatigue that Schwartz promised we wouldn’t get and bailed. But I also believe that some were looking for a different story once they were together.

      They seemed to want it both ways. They were together, but they always wanted to plant seeds of doubt about their future, mostly at the end of an episode.

      Sarah’s look of terror at the end of Suitcase.

      Sarah being led away in chains at the end of Balcony.

      Sarah turning off her phone at the end of Gobbler.

      Sarah’s look of horror that Chuck might find out her dark secret at the end of Santa Suit.

      And all of those things were resolved very quickly and became non-issues from a relationship POV. But I ask you, did those things make you more eager to watch the next episode? They must have thought so or that wouldn’t have done it, right (or are suicidal)? I would argue that those things made me less eager to watch the next week. I felt that the characters should be past that, felt like I was being manipulative, and kept looking for stories of them working together. The parts of Gobbler that I liked most was when they were working as a team. But the original watching was overwhelmed by having to worry about where they were going with the relationship. Was Sarah going to turn into Mary? How long were they going to be apart? And that was totally by design.

      Why?

      • atcDave says:

        Well I do agree the angsty sort of endings diminish the product and actually make me less interested in the follow up. But even so I must be a little less sensitive to it than you are Bill, because some of those, like the end of Suitcase, just purely made me laugh. I took that as good fun. The endings of Balcony and Gobbler absolutely sucked some of the fun out of the show, at least on initial viewing; which of course is what effects ratings.

        So yeah, I think some of those endings could have been handled better. But still, at this point they generally aren’t a big deal. The total product is awesome. Like so many shows it has some quirks I’m less enthused about. But I think apart from S3 the angst was generally delivered in small doses that didn’t really diminish my overall enthusiasm much.

      • BillAtWork says:

        Okay, Dave. I agree with most of that. The angst was almost always quickly resolved. But that begs the question, why do it? We already agree that it sucked the fun out of the show. What was the story value of ending Santa Suit with Sarah clearly terrified that Chuck would learn her deep dark secret? We quickly found out the next week that it wasn’t true. So why do it? Why did every Chris Fedak interview always tease that we shouldn’t get secure in the relationship? They might not get engaged. They might not get married. Oh no, Sarah might die.

        If he understood his audience better (at least his audience represented by you and me — oh and I think Thinkling, lol) he’d have realized that we were totally done with that sort of angst. He would have spun the story as C/S firmly together, fighting threats together. And he never did that. He didn’t do it in interviews. And he didn’t write the show that way.

        So it’s fine to say that it was no big deal. You’re right. To us it ultimately wasn’t. But you and I (and probably Thinkling, lol) wrere going to watch next week almost no matter what he did. What about the millions that weren’t nearly as dedicated? That he lost a large percentage of those people is simply mathematical fact. I firmly believe that had he understood his audience better, the show might very well still be on the air.

      • atcDave says:

        I’m not sure how much answer you’re really looking for; but watching television in general I’d say that is how writers are currently being taught. Something like “everyone loves a tense cliffhanger”. Which of course I think is nonsense, but it certainly describes how modern television is written. At this point I’m willing to live with the shortcomings of style (except for S3) and just be glad entertainment we got.
        As far as what could have kept the show on the air, obviously that can only be pure speculation. For myself, I loved when they fully embraced the adventures of the couple and team without trying to tease trouble ahead. But given the nature of S4 complaints we’ve heard (they seem more “spy mission” oriented) I’m not sure if handling Charah differently would have had a big impact either way. I know I like to think so, and I think if they’d really embraced it as a family/couple sort of show we might have won back some of those who left in S3, and even found new viewers who would have liked a more stable, more adult sort of story.

      • BillAtWork says:

        I agree that they were following the old tried and true television tropes. So in that sense, it’s hard to be overly critical. You’re comparing it to how awful it could have been and saying in comparison, it’s not that bad. I’m comparing it to how great it could have been, and it falls short.

        So I expected more. The Chuck audience was fairly unique. I think that was recognized early on. In fact, I believe that characteristic was a large factor in saving the show more than once. The Chuck audience was older, more male, and more affluent – exactly the demographic that advertisers crave and network TV outside of sports has a hard time attracting. But that audience is different than the teen girls that watched Gossip Girl or The O.C. It wanted romance. But it also wanted it to go somewhere. The joy of misery doesn’t appeal to it like it would the teen girls (nothing against teen girls, lol). So wt/wt was okay… for a while. But it had an expiration date. And all the people who they always say that they listen to was screaming it at the top of their collective lungs to them long before S3 aired. But they followed the tried and true television unwritten rule, you never put the leads together. And we see where that went.

        So I expected more from them. Especially once they realized the disaster of playing wt/wt past its expiration date. They had a chance to be bold. To go against the conventional wisdom and deliver something to their audience. And I’m not even saying that something had to be light and fluffy 24×7. It could, and should, get tense. It could get dark. But IMO, it should have become the story of C/S fighting the world. The romantic story of a couple who together were much stronger than the sum of their parts. A couple who was facing overwhelming odds and the only thing that got them through was their dependence on each other.

        And to be fair, we got some brief glimpses of a hint of that. But ultimately, far too often for my tastes, one or the other would go off on their own. This episode is a great example of that. Sarah going off on her own never made sense and it was never effective. Even from their perspective, the team was only effective when it became a team. Chuck told Sarah on the ship that he should have never allowed her to go off on her own. Exactly Chuck. Why did it take an episode and a half to get to that realization? Why did Sarah even think it a good spy idea in the first place? The characters should have been far, far past this point. It was manipulation of the kind that grates on you, that you can see coming from a mile away. And all to play to a false pretend faux angst. Why?

        Would the show I’m describing still be on the air? Impossible to say. Execution is everything. But I firmly believe that it would have had a better chance than what we got.

  10. Jason says:

    POI – spoiler alert kind of – can you POI fans believe how awesome ep was this week? Then again, I really enjoy the Shaw character, she gives the show an edge. Plus, I’m so pleased that Carter wasn’t played by the paper thin idea of planting a mole in her car. She dealt with the young fellow in an awesome way, I like that she doesn’t need backup – yet at least. The show is getting so good, that Reese, Finch and Bear can sit back and enjoy the ride, same as all of us fans. Although 42 minutes of Reese being Clint Eastwood is pretty darned great, his coworkers are doing very well too. Awesome idea for a show, and each week it seems they deliver – kudo’s!

    • joe says:

      I’ll second all of that, Jason, especially about Carter. That part of the episode’s ending was spectacular. I’m always intrigued by the Root character too, who will be, apparently, the subject of next week’s episode. I have to admit, though, that I’m just now beginning to keep all those character’s straight. I really had Root, Shaw and even Zoe confused for a bit at the end of last season.

      Really, that’s my only complaint about the show. For the casual viewer it’s about an order of magnitude too complex and fast moving. It requires a concerted effort. Look at the number of simultaneously recurring bad guys, organizations and threats; the CIA, HR, Elias, Root. No wonders the team had to be expanded!

      Oh, and I’m still not sure what they meant by telling us that “the machine” was set free in the S2 finale, either. I suspect will find out more now that Root is free.

      • Jason says:

        Joe how could I forget Root. I’m more of a blond fan in the never ending blond vs burnette debate (Sarah Walker cemented that notion), but I think Amy Acker is adorable, yet somehow is a geat big bad. I don’t think many of you are fans of Alias, but she had a near identical role on Alias, and sort of stole the show there two, which wasn’t easy, because that set was full of interesting characters.

        Joe, we talk about the use of cliffy’s. POI used the happy ending water fountain type end, followed with a tease (almost like a preview for next week) cliffy. Did you like that style?

        It’d almost be like Chuck and Sarah in balcony finish with the balcony, in my spec, engaged, and we fade away. Then we see maybe the cell scene at the very end, with Sarah saying goodbye to Chuck and being led away in chains (10-15 second scene at max). I’m not sure, but I think that makes Balcony a top notch ep for me, instead of a ‘crap’ this one was almost so good. Likewise, in Gobbler, some sort of Chuck / Sarah resolution, with a tease of Sarah on a plane with Mary ignoring Chuck’s phone call. I think such brief quick teases makes me want to watch the next ep, while still being satisfied with the longer happy ending scene immediately preceeding the ‘unhappy’ tease.

        It seems to me, that almost all the tv I like has a water fall type happy resolution near the end or at the end. I’m not through with Bones, but they milked the wtwt for all 9 seasons, even after they paired up, but near every ep has a happy ending with the wtwt couple. I can’t get enough of it (the happy endings). One other thing about Bones, the star is so conceited (even if played for laughs) that her unhappiness or angst is almost a good thing. With Chuck, there never was any reason to enjoy seeing Chuck unhappy. I’ve said it about Castle, Rick doesn’t deserve Kate, so if he has trouble, it almost is a good thing.

        Sorry for going on and on. Have a good day!!!

      • atcDave says:

        Jason I pretty much always prefer ending an episode in a happy place. I’ll stick with the “pretty much” because there are occasions when leaving a big problem hanging, or breaking at a very dramatic moment is effective for me. But as a rule, I want to leave characters I like in a good place at the end the end of the show.

  11. BillAtWork says:

    Okay, Dave. I get all that. I don’t even disagree. But does it really have to be all or nothing? Can’t we stipulate that we love the show, but admit that it had flaws that would have made us like it even better? Maybe even speculate that the show might have been more popular without those flaws? Maybe even still be on the air?

    I don’t see anything wrong with that discussion.

    • atcDave says:

      Of course we can have that talk. But sometimes it seems we get carried away with what’s wrong and don’t spend enough time praising what’s right. I like to remind people from time to time why Chuck was great and why I think its still worth discussing two years after it went off the air.
      I think we can have both discussions. In fact, I insist. Sometimes, if you feel ganged up on after a long negative comment, that’s exactly why. None of us principals at the site want an overwhelming negative to be the lasting take away in most cases. That never means you can’t complain, we all do on occasion. But we’re not going to let complaining be the default setting here.
      But you know I sometimes bristle at the other extreme as well. I think praises are empty if the viewer is blind to the possibility of shortcomings or that things could have been done differently. Both perspectives keep the discussion interesting.

      • BillAtWork says:

        Dave,

        I think that much of what I say here is being interpreted as a criticism when it really isn’t.

        I have some sympathy to Fedak’s plight. When I write a story, I’m aiming at a very specific audience. I fully realize that my story is not going to be for everyone. So when I get comments that someone didn’t like a certain aspect (like I’ve gotten from you) I have a decision to make. When I think the comment represents the audience I’m targeting, I incorporate their concern into my future writing. I’ve done that many times. I’ve even put things in my chapters to attempt to fix things that my audience didn’t like. But far more often I recognize that the commenter is not representative of my target. So my advice to them is always, this is the story I’m telling. If you can’t get past whatever issue made you comment, I’d encourage you to stop reading my story and go find something you can enjoy. No hard feelings. If enough people did that, I’d stop writing. But so far, that hasn’t been the case.

        So much of that applies to Fedak. The story he told is the story he told. I get that. He realized (or he should have) that it wouldn’t be for everyone. It was a story about a guy downloading a computer into his brain for goodness sake, 🙂 It’s totally my responsibility to either accept the story he is telling or change the channel. The fact that I watched until the very end tells you all you need to know about what my decision was. But I believe even the most Chris Fedak fangirl supporter would have to admit something. Lots of people made the other choice. So many made that choice that the show eventually became economically unsupportable… and it ended.

        So my comments here are mostly directed at why I believe that happened. And if I represent his target audience, then I can tell you why I believe that so many of them turned the channel.

        So Thinkling, was the angst of Balcony and Gobbler a valid story? Of course it was. But if I’m his target, he missed the boat. And it wouldn’t have taken many changes at all to tell a story that I loved instead of one that I found the fun being sucked out of. If I’m his target, he would have shown C/S becoming a team instead of showing one or the other off on their own. If I’m his target he’d have delivered and lot more DeLorean, Phase Three, or Seduction and a lot less Beefcake, Curse, or Gobbler.

        That’s all I’m saying.

      • Jason says:

        Dave / Bill / Think / others – I agree with Bill about the lack of a team in the big arcs, especially as the seasons wore on. My hope for a movie would be this team working together, ala Honeymooners, vs a significant threat, not to them (which has gotten old is sort of selfish) but a threat to the world. If the movie had no CS serious relationship angst, I’d be quite happy. I actually think Chuck and Sarah (and most all lead romantic couples on tv) are at their best when they have comical relationship issues while something serious is happening to the world, rather than serious issues about themselves while the world is being funny.

      • atcDave says:

        I agree with most of that Jason. Although I’m okay with the team breaking up some (Chuck/Sarah and Casey/Morgan work best for me); but keeping everyone involved, no hand cuffs, comas, or trauma to a major character please!
        My guess would be though, a direct threat to Charah, their family/kids is the most likely scenario for a reunion movie. But I do agree a broader, global threat could be appealing. In some ways, the show seemed smaller in later seasons as threats became more personal a less epic.

      • BillAtWork says:

        It’s a good question. Does the movie pick up from the beach and tell the story of them rebuilding their life together?

        Or does it start 5 years down the road? Where are C/S 5 years from the beach? I assume together. Do they have kid(s)? How much of the cast is in the movie? Jeffster? The Buy More?

        Who even writes it? I don’t think Fedak will. I sure hope not (yes, that was a criticism). If we get a repeat of 3d or Pink Slip, it will be the last time anybody ever tries to do a fan supported reunion movie, 🙂

      • Wilf says:

        @BillAtWork, to me, it would make more sense for any film to start, say, five years downstream. The reason for this is that, although I’d love nothing more than to see how things work out immediately following “Goodbye”, a film that was likely to be of interest to non-Chuck fans as well might not work if it was an obvious continuation of something else. Far better to start some time in the future (and, after all, the protagonists would be that much older in any case) and allude to past events during the progress of the film. It’s true that that could be achieved in a story following the series, but probably with greater difficulty if not only fans are to be interested in watching.

      • BillAtWork says:

        Yeah, Wilf.

        I’ve always been a little confused about what Zac has in mind.

        The easiest thing would be just to make a TV type movie designed for the small screen aimed at the existing Chuck audience, basically a two hour episode 6×01. That seems doable to me. It could be largely subsidized by the fans in some sort of ppv offering, then offered to NBC at a huge discount. If that is the target, then starting from the beach makes sense to me. I originally thought that was what Veronica Mars was going to do.

        If they are talking about a feature film designed for the big screen, to build from the Chuck base but attract a broader general audience — that would be much more aggressive. It would have to have a totally different feel, become more an action movie. That would require a significant investment from somebody (WB I assume). The fans could never fund that via a Kickstarter type thing. The production values, stunts, Sarah in less clothes (J/K), etc would have to be brought up to feature movie standards. I’m thinking a shooting budget of a minimum of $50 million. That would be a tough sell to WB. I don’t think the Chuck franchise was an economic juggernaut from their pov. Assuming that a Kickstarter deal could get the $6 million that VM got, still somebody has to cough up $40 million or so. If that is the target, then Charah can’t be the focus. It has to be a side story at best. Those kind of movies are long on blowing stuff up and action sequences. But it would be great to get both Zac and Yvonne as the lead in a feature film. It could be the break that they (especially Yvonne) needs.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah Wilf I agree. I think it makes more sense to start with the happy family some years down the line and introduce an all new challenge. They can/should fill in some back story as they go, but should keep it brief.
        I say all that for two main reasons; one, just it will likely be another couple years, and no one is getting younger. In 2016 it will be tough to sell Chuck and Sarah as barely 30. Go ahead and let them play their age.
        And I’d rather not waste too much time on a reunion revisiting what’s already done. I’d rather they plunge into a new story. I think that would have broader appeal, and would make further such movies more likely.

        I might change my mind if something happened very quickly. Especially if its something cheap. Like if come January, Zac and Yvonne get the rights to do a 40 minute webisode sort of thing that is just an epilogue sort of story. Then, obviously, pick it up at the beach.

        If we do get a full length movie at some point, then I hope to see as much of the old gang as possible, even the Buy More.

      • dkd says:

        “I’ve always been a little confused about what Zac has in mind.”

        I don’t think it really matters what Zac has in mind. He’s the most accessible person and gets asked all the questions about a “Chuck movie”. So, when he answers them, he’s only offering his opinion. Unfortunately, because he’s the only one talking about, fans have mistakenly gotten the impression he’s in control of it.

        Ultimately, I don’t think it’s going to be up to him. As for what the story is, I have never known Zac to have gotten involved in that stuff. While he did direct the show a few times, I’ve never read any anecdote about him suggesting storylines or altering storylines or any of that. He seemed pretty accepting of whatever the writers gave him.

        If there is ever anything new filmed for Chuck, what that is will be driven by three things:

        1. The format
        2. The budget
        3. When it is being done

        The format can be anything these days–a web series, a TV movie, a theatrical movie, a movie delivered straight to paying consumers (like DVD movies were but with streaming).

        If it takes five years or ten years, I really doubt they’d start the storyline from the beach. Even if they went into production now, I’d be surprised.

        I don’t think anyone involved with the writing of the show has even given any thought to what kind of story they would do until they know the answers of #1 and #2 above and even #3. It would be pointless to even think about it.

        Right now, Josh Schwartz is producing several shows. Fedak has two projects in development.

        And whether Chuck gains any new fans through this Netflix deal is also a big question mark that could greatly impact what WB wants to do.

      • BillAtWork says:

        Oh, I disagree. I think that Zac has said that he has already had discussions with WB. I think he will be a major player in whatever happens (if it ever does).

        I’d be surprised but not shocked if Schwartz and/or Fedak was involved. It would make me much, much, much (I think you get the idea) less enthused.

        But I do agree that five years later it would be hard to pick up from the beach. The only way that makes any sense would be a quick project with television production standards that looked and felt like another episode of the TV show. That still seems to me the most likely thing that could realistically happen.

        I’d love to see Zac and Yvonne in a feature Chuck movie. But that couldn’t, almost by definition, feel like the tv show. I’m skeptical that WB would invest the money required for that kind of effort. Killer Elite had a shooting budget of $70 million. So far it has grossed something like 56. If it was my 70 million you’d have to talk a long time before it’d risk it on a Chuck movie.

      • atcDave says:

        Reunion projects of all sorts typically involve a lot of push from the stars, quite often with them in production/oversight roles. I don’t think there’s any doubt Zac will be a major player in getting a Chuck movie made someday.
        But obviously everything else is all up in the air. I think a TV budget is by far the most likely, but if either Zac or Yvonne becomes much better known in the next few years that could have a major bearing on what happens. Only time will tell.

      • dkd says:

        Define “major player”.

        To me, major player is a decision maker. I’ve seen the same interviews you have and the nature of Zac’s discussions aren’t very clear to me. He’s actually admitted his suggestions have fallen on deaf ears. In not those exact words.

        The reality is that he has no business relationship with Chuck other than being a paid employee of the production. He’s not a WB executive and he’s not one of the owners of College Hill Productions.

        In case it sounds like I’m dissing Zac, I do think he knows what he means when he says things. It’s the common fan outside the business who jump to a lot of conclusions based on just not understanding the business.

        There aren’t that many defunct series where they actors aren’t 100% willing to go back and do their characters again. If willingness on the actors part is all that it took to get a movie made we’d be awash with remakes of Farscape, Babylon 5, and even more movies from the Stargate TV franchise.

        I also don’t understand why anyone would be surprised that Schwartz and Fedak would be involved. Why wouldn’t they? It’s their baby. They created the show. Even if they both were so busy they had to assign the writing to someone else, they’d still have some creative control over who that someone else is.

        Gene Rodenberry may have been shoved aside for the 2nd Star Trek movie, but he was still given the reigns for the first one.

      • atcDave says:

        I mean most reunion projects show one or more of the stars as an executive producer. At the very least, they have veto power over scripts and over all story direction. Because even when they don’t get an executive credit they are no longer under contract either; so at the very least they have to be sold on the project.
        Zac however has indicated some interest in “getting” a movie made, so I expect he’ll be of the more hands on variety. And of course he’s not a writer. But he may be in a position to chose the writer or script.

        As far as JS and CF, well we can only hope…
        Kidding, sort of. I would be okay with them being involved in a Chuck project. But I hope they pass off writing to someone else. Again, not a huge thing. But neither are my favorite writers.

      • BillAtWork says:

        I think the only way that JS/CF are in CHARGE would be a relatively cheap TV movie that felt like the next episode. Who would invest 70 million dollars to make a feature movie with them in charge? Neither has any experience. I’m not saying that Zac would be in charge of the creative process in any way either, for the same reason. WB would hire somebody who has actually made a movie before.

        And frankly, if CF is going to write the script, I’d rather they do nothing. We’ve seen what he delivers in the ‘big moments’. 3D and Pink Slip were both episodes that had a large built in audience. Both were huge opportunities to show the greater public how amazing the show could be. Fedak claimed the responsibility for both for his very own. Both were epic fails. So creative consultant? Maybe. But I certainly don’t trust him to deliver anything that I’d pay for to see.

      • atcDave says:

        CF did also write some outstanding episodes; Pilot and First Date come to mind. I never mean to be dismissive of his talent, only that he isn’t my first choice.

        Remember that the production company also includes McG who does have serious big screen experience. There IS big screen experience. Also, far more time is spent on a big screen script; more re-writes and editing, polishing (months instead of a week). Wonderland could conceivably do a big screen project. Although I don’t believe anyone would currently pay for it. But never say never…

    • thinkling says:

      @Bill:
      You said, “I don’t agree that I am consistently criticizing S4.” I realize that you came back and softened things by saying that all you’re really saying is that CF misread his target audience (meaning you). But to me your comments go way beyond the scope of preference or hitting your sweet spot.

      Maybe you should go back and read your comments. They come across as very critical. You couldn’t even comment on your favorite S4 episode without pointing out flaws. Even your compliments are laced with “buts” and “howevers.” Of your first 13 comments on this post, 12 are critical or negative, and the 13th is a defense of your right to criticize.

      And you told us why: I’m comparing it to how great it could have been, and it falls short. If that’s your lens, Chuck will always fall short. Not only does this become tedious, it’s demoralizing. It’s like a child who can never please his parent, because the parent must always remind him that he could’ve done better. Who needs that?

      In five of your comments you say you don’t understand or don’t get something, but all reasonable explanations are dismissed and demeaned, which can only mean that you are dense (which I doubt) or you don’t want to get it, which you confirmed: That you can fanwank it to make sense doesn’t really matter to me. That’s incredibly dismissive.

      What I find odd is that you seem to want to persuade the rest of us to see things the way you do: to accentuate the flaws, question the story and the writers, and embrace your criticisms as our own. Frankly, that’s insulting.

      It’s not that we don’t ever criticize Chuck or Schwedak or episodes or parts of seasons. We do. But overall our commentary is positive. Our goal isn’t to tear down the show or pick nits or put every flaw under a microscope … or to continually remind people that even though Chuck is a really good show, just think how much better it could have been.

      Here at ChuckThis, we (mostly) write and explain and discuss in a way that helps people get more out of the story, find something to appreciate about an episode, see something cool they missed before, and like Chuck more … not less.

  12. revdr says:

    I have only been reading and posting on the site for a few days and I must say that I enjoy the spirited debate about all things Chuck. I have gleaned more from reading what you all have to say and while it might not change my opinion about an episode or the series itself it does help me to see the show from several different points of view. I have my doubts at this point about the possibility of a movie especially since the longer it takes to get going the more out of view Chuck becomes (w/o syndication even more so) and Netflix not withstanding, I have a hard time seeing it. And as to JS/CF being involved, although I have no problem from a production standpoint, I would think twice about seeing it if either were writing it (CF especially). I love Chuck and was not happy with the way it ended but that’s what we got. Thinkling, you provided me with great insight from your pov and I sincerely thank you….it didn’t change my mind about the series finale but I appreciated it none the less. I may not chime in often, especially once the discussions get into season 5, but all of you give me a lot of food for thought.

  13. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Gobbler (4.12) | Chuck This

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